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How To Install A Liquid CPU Cooler? [Step By Step]

Wondering about how to install a liquid cooler? Read our guide to learn about the quickest way to do it.

Expert Verified by Hayyan Serwer

AIO liquid coolers are a great and efficient way to keep your CPU cool. They are often known to perform better than traditional air coolers. However, installing an AIO cooler is not as easy as expected. A proper procedure must be followed to make sure the installation is accurate.

Key Takeaways
  • Your CPU will thermal throttle if you put a lot of pressure on it when using it without a cooler, potentially leading to hardware failure.
  • It is essential to keep the CPU temperature low, as this will help increase the overall lifespan of the component.
  • Water cooling is one of the most efficient ways to keep the CPU temperature low.
Important: Before we begin, you might want to install the motherboard and all its components, like your CPU, RAM sticks, and NVME drives. Don’t install the GPU yet since it occupies much of your space. It might come in the way of installing your AIO and removing it if you already have it installed.
DeepCool LS720 White AIO Cooler
DeepCool LS720 White AIO Cooler (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Install The Backplate

Backplates are the things that enable the connection between your CPU and water block. They are placed behind the motherboard and CPU socket. This is where the screws of your water block mount on, ensuring the connection between your CPU and water block. Follow the instructions below to install the backplate:

  1. Align The Backplate: Align your backplate so that all the screw holes of the motherboard are positioned accordingly.
  2. Screw The Backplate: Now secure the backplate with the screws that it came with. This is where you will screw on the waterblock later on.
    Screw The Backplate On The CPU
    Non-Metallic Backplate for Intel CPUs (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Install The Fans

Installing the fans inside the radiator before you install it in the case is recommended, as it gets much more complicated once the radiator is inside the case. Here’s how you can install the fans:

  1. Place The Fan: Line the fans up in the correct configuration inside the radiator.
    Tip: Most fans will come with a small arrow to demonstrate the airflow direction. If there isn’t any arrow on them, refer to the installation guide provided by the manufacturer.
  2. Screw The Fans: Afterward, secure the fans with screws while installing them into the radiator.
    Enermax Aquafusion ADV 360 A-RGB Radiator
    Install The Fans On The Radiator (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Mount The Radiator

Now, you should have decided on the correct spot to mount your radiator. Now is the time to install it. Ensure you have removed any additional panels or brackets from where you are about to install your radiator. Follow the instructions below to mount the radiator in the radiator:

  1. Align The Radiator: First, align and hold your radiator where you want to mount it.
  2. Line Up The Radiator With Screw Holes: While holding it there, ensure the cutouts on the case line up correctly with the screw holes on your radiator.
  3. Manage The Radiator Cable: Pass the cables of the radiator through the cutouts to the back of your case.
    Fit The Radiator To The PC Case
    Mount The Radiator (Image By Tech4Gamers)
  4. Screw The Radiator: Once the radiator is aligned correctly, tighten the screws to secure its place on the case.

Install The Waterblock

Before installing the water block, remove all the thermal paste previously applied on top of your CPU’s IHS. Most water blocks will come with pre-applied thermal paste, but if yours does not, install a small amount of it on the IHS of your CPU. This is how you can install the water block:

  1. Install The Retention Bracket: The first step is to install the retention bracket around your water block. Your AIO will come with one.
    WARNING: Retention brackets come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, so make sure you consult the installation guide provided by the manufacturer with your AIO to install it correctly.
  2. Place The Waterblock: After installing the retention bracket, place the water block on your CPU, ensuring the water block is oriented the right way up.
  3. Align The Retention Bracket: Ensure the support screws you installed previously align with the water block’s retention bracket.
    Tip: If you own an AMD CPU, you might have to attach the thumbscrews using the attachment clips on your bracket.
  4. Tighten The Screws: After the bracket and thumbscrews are in place, gradually tighten them to secure the water block on the CPU.

Manage The Cables

The last step after successfully installing all the hardware is establishing the electrical connection. You must connect your AIO cables to your system for this one. Follow the steps below to manage the cables when installing a CPU cooler:

  1. Connect The Cables: Connect all the fan cables to the fan headers.
  2. Plug The RGB Cables In Their Connectors: If your fans have RGB, then daisy-chain all your RGB cables and connect them to the RGB connector.
    Plug Your The Fans In These Fan Headers
    CPU Fan Headers (Image By Tech4gamers)
  3. Connect The Cooler To The PSU: Finally, insert your AIO cooler’s SATA cable into your PSU to supply power to your cooler and power up your system.

How Do You Choose The Right Size For Your Build?

To choose the right AIO size, consider your case’s capacity and your PC’s usage. If your PC pushes the CPU to its limits and causes thermal throttling, opt for a larger AIO. According to us, a 120mm fan suits more minor cases. For better cooling, choose 140mm, but it requires more space and power.

Different Sizes Of AIO Cooler
AIO Cooler Sizes And Form Factors (Image By NZXT)

After fan size, select the radiator size based on the number of fans. A single fan and 120/140mm radiator suffice for casual users with limited space. Use a dual fan and 240/280mm radiator for mid-sized cases and occasional overclocking. Hardcore users needing maximum performance should choose a triple fan and 360/420mm radiator.


Conclusion

This was everything you needed to know about installing a liquid CPU cooler. Hopefully, your CPU cooler is up and running as intended. Not only is your CPU way cooler with the temperatures now, but it is also cooler regarding visuals with the RGB aesthetic. Make sure you constantly monitor its temperatures using the dedicated software.


Frequently Asked Questions

How does an AIO cooler work?

In an AIO cooler, the liquid absorbs the heat and travels to the radiator, dissipating heat via the cooler fans.

How can I choose the right-sized cooler for my PC?

If you have a minor PC case, choose a 120mm cooler. For mid-sized cases, you can go for 240/280mm or 360/420mm cooler.

Why is a liquid cooler better than a stock cooler?

A liquid cooler absorbs the heat, relocates it, and dissipates it outside the PC case, leaving no chance for the heat to disperse in the PC case, which usually happens in the stock cooler.


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